And, being a huge Charles Dickens fan (used to write Dickensian parodies for class essays/assignments in school), this post, on ‘Fake Books of Charles Dickens‘, from a year or so ago is a favorite. He had such a way with language. He was, of course, the Shakespeare of his time.
Let’s consider two of these fake titles as examples: The Books of Moses and Sons, Forty Winks at the Pyramids. Now, wouldn’t you be interested enough to find out more, indeed, actually want these books to be real?
When I consider the first one, knowing that the Bible tells us that Moses had two sons with Zipporah, I imagine a book where we get three different versions of the long journey through the desert: father’s and then that of each son. Sort of like Lawrence Durrell’s The Alexandria Quartet, where the same story is told in four books. Just imagine. Had such a book existed, what fodder that would have been for Biblical scholars squabbling through the ages (though, I daresay, they don’t need any more fodder than they have already).
When I consider the second one, I think of the early-20th century, when the British archeologists were all over the Egyptian Pyramids, plundering for treasure, er, restoring for preservation. So, I imagine a P G Wodehousian tale of a handful of well-meaning toffs blundering and muddling their way through with the locals offering navigation and labor. But, amidst all that havoc and chaos, the one thing that must remain sacrosanct is their afternoon nap — the so-called “forty winks”. All this, of course, to rather comically disastrous ends for the toffs as the locals tend to undo their morning’s efforts during that stolen nap time, causing even more confusion and mayhem post-forty-winks each day.
Well, you see how the imagination can be given free rein with such titles. But, I’ll stop torturing you now.
Another similar article from a few years ago in the New York Times invited readers to create their own fake titles for various authors, real or made-up. The huge response in the comments section is worth a read.
Here’s a wise guy who asked librarians for fake books. They’re quite funny and he was quite brave.
Getting back to Dickens. When people find out that I’m a Dickens fan, they often ask me about my favorite Dickens novel. Of course, this is like asking me which of my fingers I prefer the most. So, I try to wriggle out by giving them the latest one I’ve re-read or am re-reading.
Right now, that is ‘The Old Curiosity Shop‘. Poor Nell. Not only did she suffer greatly in the book, but she suffered at the hands of critics thereafter. The most famous remark came from the ever-sharp Oscar Wilde, who wrote, “One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears… of laughter.”
Dickens was the king of the melodrama, no doubt. But, that does not take away from his wonderful prose, his vast stable of unique, quirky, now-archetypal characters, and the sheer breadth of his storytelling. “Dickensian” is a descriptor or qualifier that we now use in everyday language.
So, let me leave you with a lovely bit from the book (though dark, it has rhythm and images that stay with you long after reading, so savor it slowly):
It had been gradually getting overcast, and now the sky was dark and lowering, save where the glory of the departing sun piled up masses of gold and burning fire, decaying embers of which gleamed here and there through the black veil, and shone redly down upon the earth. The wind began to moan in hollow murmurs, as the sun went down carrying glad day elsewhere; and a train of dull clouds coming up against it, menaced thunder and lightning. Large drops of rain soon began to fall, and, as the storm clouds came sailing onward, others supplied the void they left behind and spread over all the sky. Then was heard the low rumbling of distant thunder, then the lightning quivered, and then the darkness of an hour seemed to have gathered in an instant.